Why Your Business Needs A Professional Information Technology Team

You may run your small to midsized business with ad-hoc resources that support your IT infrastructure. What do I mean by IT infrastructure? You know your desktop computers, servers, internet connectivity, cloud infrastructure, all the technology ‘stuff’ that enables you to track inventory, bill for services, manufacture inventory, produce reports; all the things your business needs to operate. You may utilize an in-house resource for some IT things since they have perceived knowledge but it’s not their primary role. You also call on outside resources such as a local computer store, your Internet Service Provider, email hosting company, or others depending on the perceived issue.

You might think that you’re saving money by not having dedicated resources that can monitor, manage and secure your infrastructure but you are not. You might think that much of what an IT person or company would do is not necessary for your small or mid-sized company but again you are mistaken. Having provided services for over the last 22 years we have seen many companies make assumptions that they can get by until they find that their business is in jeopardy having suffered a data breach, data losses, system outages or other problems that now threaten the company and perhaps its viability.

What do outages and slowdowns cost your business over the course of a year? If you or your employees cannot work for an hour or two, or you can’t track orders or inventory, or if you can’t appropriately communicate with your customers for the day, or run a production line for an extended period what is the cost? What if your server gets compromised and begins emailing all your clients malware? In all these cases there is not only a quantifiable cost in dollars but perhaps also in loss of reputation. I don’t know about you but if I can’t count on the companies that I interface with I go elsewhere for the products or services I need.

At Network Management Solutions we have seen in many instances where companies cannot operate for days or beyond. Improper software or hardware setup can not only cause performance issues such as slow response but also lead to data breaches. Malicious phishing attacks are emailed on an ongoing basis, without proper setup an employee’s mistake of clinking on a link may lead to malware, compromised passwords and systems. Perhaps the real value of the IT infrastructure and the business reliance on it were not scrutinized until the small problems became momentous.  

So what  can a service provider do for you and your company? While no one can guarantee that IT problems will never occur, a professional services organization like Network Management Solutions can ensure that problems are reduced to a minimum and the effects of any outages are quickly recognized and mitigated.

A proper Managed Service Provider (MSP) will make certain that your infrastructure is appropriately designed to meet the business information needs, focusing on reliability, information security, and performance. This may include ensuring desktop computers are maintained, servers are updated, security patches are applied, outages are addressed in real time, and the overall health of the infrastructure is monitored to prevent and mitigate potential outages. Additionally, an MSP will identify design flaws and recommend measures that will improve service levels, security, and data retention. You can’t get these services from a full time employee acting as a part time IT resource, or a part time IT firm of 2 people that may be assisting other customers and cannot address your business needs for days.

If you are interested in protecting your business, its information assets, and the systems that help it operate while maintaining a fiscally sound approach we would like to speak with you. Network Management Solutions can be reached at 908-232-0100.  Please contact us for a free, confidential discussion to learn more about how we can assist your organization.

What Applications Are Running In Your Network?

Do you know the answer?  While perhaps your company is well equipped and can answer the question, many small to mid-sized companies cannot. If you find that you are among the firms that cannot answer the question you should take an interest in knowing.

Why you ask?  Here are five important reasons:

  1. Financial – Computing and network resources are costly. Resources that are utilized for non-business purposes consume precious resources and cost the company money. Some personal communications may be acceptable but there are limits that certain individuals might take advantage of.
  2. Security – Unauthorized or rouge applications may impact information security. When properly utilized as part of an overall strategy, applications such as Dropbox or Google Drive may be great for your business. However they may also provide a platform for lost data, data leakage, or theft if being utilized without company knowledge or appropriate safeguards. The problem may be further compounded when an employee has resigned and maintains the information stored on Internet devices.
  3. Productivity – It may be within the boundaries of your business policies to allow employees to use Facebook, Twitter, personal email, and surf the web within certain timeframes. Without being able to measure usage you may have undesired activity that negatively impacts productivity, is detrimental to the business culture, and or potentially creates a hostile work environment
  4. Piracy – Software piracy not only affects the developer but also the company that installs the software. An IDC study found that 37 percent of midsized companies that participated in software audits had pirated software within their environment. While there are obvious impacts to the developer with lost revenue and potential dissatisfaction of those using pirated software, many times pirated software contains vulnerabilities including viruses, worms and Trojans. Employee devices containing pirated software that are used within the business environment can contribute to compromise of  the company network.
  5. Reputation – With all of the online media your business reputation can suffer serious harm. Social media can help spread news around the globe in a matter of moments. With companies searching online for the products or services your company offers having bad things show up in search engines can directly impact your bottom line. News of a breach, low employee morale, or piracy can seriously damage the business reputation.

Engaging a consulting company that can perform regular audits of your business infrastructure or managed service providers that can monitor activity in real-time can be a cost effective solution to the problem.

Network Management Solutions has been providing pragmatic solutions for business since 1996. For more information please contact us.

Small Business A Prime Data Breach Candidate

Has the news reached your computer?  Small business is a prime candidate for hackers looking to capitalize on an unprepared target.  What do I have to loose you might think, but think again.  You may have financial assets, bank accounts, intellectual property, credit cards, protected personal information, or even your business reputation at risk.

While you may believe that none of this matters, the turmoil created by a breach is a nightmare to remediate taking months or longer to recover from.  Some incidents carry on undetected for years and end in court cases with the compromised business as a defendant fighting lawsuits and regulatory fines. Not withstanding the legal challenges you may find your business suffering from reputational harm or an inability to recover funds from a financial hack.

When business magazines such as Forbes and Inc. are writing about small business being targets you know things have reached a tipping point.  For further information check out the list of identified firms compromised so far this year at the Identify Theft Resource Center.

So why is small business a prime candidate for data breaches, the answer is simple.  Small businesses typically have weak information security programs.  The technology deployments are limited and improperly configured; management and employees are not security aware; the ability to detect most compromises early on is non-existent; and the business is information and asset rich to a would be attacker.  Business owners compound the problems being technology averse, believing that it’s all too complex and all too costly to manage.  So the task gets delegated, underfunded, or left to chance, none of which are viable in the long term.

Pragmatic solutions are available that won’t disrupt business operations or strain company budgets.  Employees and management can become better stewards and learn simple security best practices and the reasoning behind them.  A robust program integrates technology, business practices, operational procedures and point insurance products.  A well-crafted security program protects the business from financial, reputational, legal and regulatory issues.  Integrated within the business operation the security program is generally simple to maintain and effective in its objectives.

Ensuring that you engage the appropriate resources, as part of your security strategy is key.  Most small companies don’t have the internal resources to commit to develop and maintain the security program and hiring such resources can be costly.  Utilizing a managed service provider is an excellent cost affective approach to identify business requirements, develop solutions and maintain the program ongoing.

About Network Management Solutions

Network Management Solutions (NMS) has been helping companies address their business and technology issues since 1996.  We are currently serving a variety of customers within New Jersey, New York, and the surrounding metro areas of New York and Philadelphia.

Please contact NMS to schedule a no obligation, consultation to discuss your concerns.  We will provide expert advice in simple business terms on how to best meet your business needs.  NMS can be reached by phone or email at 908-232-0100 or info@nmscorp.com.  More information on Network Management Solutions can be found at www.nmscorp.com.

Investing in Your Business Infrastructure

Your business provides products or services that are important to its customers. As a viable entity the business provides investors, owners, management and employees an income and is vital to the financial well being of those involved. Every business is part of a commercial ecosystem and a micro economy in itself. In an effort to compete and stay viable why do so many business owners ignore the need for good information technology and security practices?

Admittedly for most it’s not a great topic of discussion. Information security and information technology in general is considered by most individuals too complex, too foreign, and best left to computer geeks to sort out. Well if you are in a position of responsibility within your organization you might agree, but it would be a dereliction of your duties not to be involved in defining overall technology objectives while reviewing outcomes ongoing.

Why? The operation of business today depends on information technology and information security. There may be some companies out there that still get by with pens and paper but they are very few. Most business relies on email, the web, databases, online banking, and perhaps some computer automation. A breakdown or breach of IT systems can be very disruptive and costly.  Ever contacted a business to order something when their systems were down?  How well did they meet your needs?

Most small business owners ignore the importance of information technology in their business planning.  This leaves the company prone to inevitable breaches, outages, and data losses. Too often simple maintenance and upgrades are ignored for extended periods of time and ultimately the lack of oversight backfires. We have seen businesses shut down by outages.

By the time a crisis occurs all the perceived money saved is long spent in lost productivity and potential reputational harm to the business. You might think you can hide the weaknesses from your customers but they know through their ongoing service experience. Many times your employees will tell your customers of recurring problems before they tell you.

Building and maintaining pragmatic IT solutions is the most cost effective and efficient way to operate. That’s not always easy to do as the latest technology is like a drug to some staff, and the vendor supplying it wants to move as much of the latest greatest as possible. Your involvement and the use of outside consulting are critical in developing, and maintaining your best interests.

Business objectives should be clearly defined with an IT plan supporting each objective in plain English.  There is no need for all the tech jargon. A simple question like how do we ensure data security should drive clearly defined objectives and an information technology roadmap that meets each point, which any layperson can understand.  Keep it simple, stay involved, your business depends on it.

About Network Management Solutions

Since 1996 Network Management Solutions (NMS) has been helping companies best meet their business objectives with pragmatic solutions.  Please contact us with your concerns we are here to help.  Network Management Solutions can be reached at 908-232-0100 or by email at info@nmscorp.com.  Further information can be found at our website, www.nmscorp.com

Using MSP Tools to Supplement Security Management

Many SMB environments have limited budgets and tools to assist in the management of IT assets. Those SMBs that use the services of a Managed Service Provider may be able to gain additional benefit from their providers beyond the initial intent.

While perhaps the primary intent is for the MSP to manage availability and performance of the IT environment and provide response services to outages, the MSP may also be a first line of defense in identifying a potential attack or compromise of a client environment.

Traditional MSP tools monitor availability and performance of the environment to ensure that the client environment operates at optimal levels.  This is done through monitoring the availability of hosts, host based services, applications, and networking facilities and devices, along with the consumption of the aforementioned device resources, i.e. bandwidth, host memory, cpu etc.

Alerts pertaining to overconsumption or the unavailability of the managed devices while traditionally due to growing needs, and or failed components may also be the result of a security event or breach.  High bandwidth consumption at odd hours outbound may indicate a breach and ongoing data exfiltration, or high utilization of web facing hosts or networks indicate a DOS attack or test of some sort, while the unexpected reboot of a host many be due to exploit code that has successfully planted itself.

While there are many robust security tools that can be employed to prevent atacks and identify anomalous behavior, the tools may be out of the reach from a cost perspective for many SMB environments.   Supplementing security efforts with MSP alerting mechanisms may help provide some improvements in security and the ability to identify the start of an unwanted event.


Understanding the Cost of IT Outages

You insure your business, home, auto, life, health, maybe even purchase some sort of insurance for information technology.  Utilizing insurance as a tool to mitigate financial risk is common practice. Much of the insurance we purchase we don’t think twice about as we may be mandated to comply or it just makes good logical sense when considering the potential downside.

The same logic however many times does not seem to apply when considering what the cost of an IT outage means to a particular business and what the organization can do to better prepare to mitigate the risk.  Many small to mid-sized businesses knowingly have significant IT risks due to weak implementations and poor operational management and choose to act only when crisis erupts, deferring the obvious believing this is some how sensible.  Many times a major IT disruption severely impacts the business and its ability to operate for an extended period leading to both financial and long-lasting reputational harm.

Perhaps many businesses are not thinking about the daily cost of slow downs, minor outages, and other nuisances which make the staff and business inefficient.  There is a quantifiable cost and in most cases it far exceeds the cost to maintain the right equipment and operational support. Beyond that, proper maintenance ensures that the likelihood of major disruptions are significantly reduced.

Most small to mid sized businesses are experts in areas other then information technology.  Even organizations that properly fund IT initiatives may find it difficult to hire, retain and manage the area. Managed Services Providers can be a beneficial resource to expand technical expertise, oversee key areas, reduce the cost of operations while improving service levels.

For further information about how Network Management Solutions can assist your organization in improving services while effectively managing technology spend please contact us.



Keeping IT At Pace With Business Demands

I frequently speak with business owners that have done a remarkable job of building incredible businesses.  Their vision and ability to create a thriving enterprise never ceases to amaze me. Whether it is a NY metropolitan records storage company, a global manufacturer of goods, a local NJ services organization, or otherwise, the creativity, market knowledge, and the capacity to innovate and grow market share is impressive.

Unfortunately these same bright and unique individuals many times find their businesses stymied by information technology demands. We see a recurring theme that is a lack of information technology expertise and accountability to guide the business, meet operational demands, maintain the infrastructure and make sound information technology investments.  Many times the business owner or several employees on a part-time basis get to dabble in IT.  Ultimately this becomes a recipe for disaster.

Many small to mid sized business rely on 3rd party resellers to advise them on products, and or services, which have little to do with ensuring the solutions meet the business needs ongoing.  Or they have a break-fix person that is called in to respond to whatever the latest crisis is, patch things up and move on.

Network Management Solutions frequently becomes involved when an organization realizes that the manner in which they have been managing IT is no longer working.  This can be due to an extended outage that can’t be cured by the current provider, or in house “staff”, or repetitive outages or slow-downs that can’t be explained or resolved, or worse yet a theft or loss of information.

Network Management Solutions guides organizations to make sound technology investments, delivering 24×7 remote managed services, while maintaining accountability for the performance, reliability, and well being of the technology infrastructure at a price point below a traditional self-service model.

The Managed Service Provider model works well, if you have the right partner.  For additional information please contact us.

Keeping Corporate Information Safe

There is much in the news about data breaches, information hacks, and data loss.  Such events when publicized can lead to a loss of reputation, brand damage, legal actions, and other undesirable outcomes.  Loss of data can also mean a loss of competitive advantage, damaged infrastructure, and monetary losses, regardless of the size and scope of the business.  If your intellectual property is important to your business it is important to others also.  This can include insiders who may profit from your vulnerabilities while under your employ or become your competitors down the road.

Thefts and losses occur from a variety of sources including both intentional and non-intentional acts. The threat landscape is complex, pervasive, and difficult to manage and mitigate.   Even the largest of corporations face great challenges in keeping pace with the onslaught of new technology, growing threats, and ongoing criminal activity.   Most small to mid-sized businesses do little to address the issues believing they are under the radar and safe from harm.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  So what are the answers?

As with any event that is difficult to control or predict, it is best to be prepared.  Preparations start with being well organized in all facets of the business operation, technology management, ongoing oversight, and the ability to respond precisely to a threat or compromise.  Ad hoc planning and response will not cut it as you are most likely to miss the early warning signs and destroy key information in your response.

Books have been written, courses taught, standards developed, degrees obtained, with professions and lives dedicated to being prepared. This is a complex mission and far beyond the scope of this article, however some food for thought follows.

What do the technology platforms look like in your business?  How are devices deployed?  Are there approved apps, devices,networks, deployment standards, acceptable use policies, ongoing training? If BYOD is part of  your business platform, do you allow devices that are jailbroken, run unapproved apps, and how do you monitor for data leakage?

What does normal traffic look like on your network?  Where does legitimate remote traffic originate from? What times are remote users accessing your networks and computing systems?  How do you detect anomalous behavior?

Building secure, standardized, stable infrastructure and understanding what normal activity looks like is critical in benchmarking security.  Additionally the ongoing monitoring and management of network access, traffic and transactional flows, and the monitoring of key applications are critical in the ongoing day-to-day management of the availability, performance and security of the information technology infrastructure.

Network Management Solutions provides robust design and management services that are a critical component in keeping corporate information safe.

For further information please visit us as www.nmscorp.com or contact us.

Information Technology as a Creative Tool

You run a graphic arts, music studio, or movie production company.  It is easy to see the correlation between your deliverable and technology.  Without information technology, the applications, computing and networking, your business would not exist in its present form.

At the heart of every thriving company is creativity.  It is creativity that develops, nurtures, and guides the vision for the company.

Steve Jobs the creative visionary of Apple had a passion for being at the intersection of art and technology.  Hewlett, Packard, Gates, and many others successful entrepreneurs realized their vision through the application of technology.

How does technology support the creative vision of your company?

While access to information technology systems and applications has become increasingly abundant to all organizations, many struggle with managing technology for success.  In such cases information technology becomes a necessary evil rather than a business enabler.  This is an immense missed opportunity for the company.

Managed Service Providers can provide a great way for the small to midsize business gain information technology expertise, and the platforms, while optimizing cost performance models.

Network Management Solutions has helped many organizations based in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and surrounding regions on a national and international level to design, implement, monitor and manage robust technology infrastructures.

Please contact us to discuss how Network Management Solutions can help support the creativity in your business.

Utilizing Managed Service Providers to Improve IT Cost Models

All too often the cost of IT is calculated by simple metrics which includes headcount, leases, telco facilities, maintenance and other expenses along with the whatever capital expenditures that may take place during a year. Many organizations never consider the cost of IT from workers being unable to perform their duties or loss of revenue stemming from customer disruptions.

The economy has forced many organizations to cut back on IT resources impacting essential services that enable the company to deliver its goods and services as well as customers to interface with the business. These cutbacks have a serious impact on corporate efficiency, revenue, and company profits and typically go on unmeasured. Left unmeasured this negative impact remains outside the purview of senior management.

Managed service providers are a great way for most organizations to improve service delivery, expand technical resources while improving the cost to deliver critical IT services. MSPs can add depth to any organization by expanding hours of coverage, providing expanded expertise and skills, or freeing internal resources that can be utilized for other critical business functions.

MSPs services are generally the most cost effective way to expand resources while keeping IT costs to a minimum. Many times the benefits obtained from a robust MSP managing IT resources result in overall cost savings to an organization through increased uptime and the careful management and tuning of existing IT resources. MSPs are generally able to deliver such cost savings through the systems, processes, procedures and expert resources that they deploy.

For more information regarding Network Management Solutions services you can reach us at www.nmscorp.com